WASHINGTON — This week’s gathering of the annual United Nations General Assembly was dominated by President Trump.
He emphasized his “America First” vision in his speech to the assembly and at a rambling news conference the next day. In smaller meetings, he touched on global issues that continue to vex the United States and other nations — from North Korea’s nuclear program to election interference by foreign powers. And he shrugged off laughter from other world leaders at his typically boastful words.
“I was struck by how he wanted to use this audience and this opportunity to reject some of the key tenets of global multilateralism,” said Dafna Rand, a former State Department official who is now vice president for policy and research at Mercy Corps, a humanitarian aid organization.
“He was using this speech to reject the very premise of the U.N.,” she said.
Between espousing those ideas, Mr. Trump and his senior administration officials detailed specific policy positions and gave a clearer view into how the United State is grappling with some big dilemmas. Here are five takeaways on their vision of United States foreign policy, as presented at the world body’s summit meeting.
The American military in Syria could shift to confront Iran.
The United States military mission in Syria is changing. The Pentagon has 2,000 troops in eastern Syria, with a stated purpose of fighting the Islamic State. The Islamic State is a much weaker force than it was just a year ago, and American commanders could soon order Special Operations troops or other military units to focus on other armed groups — namely Iranian government forces and militias supported by Iran.
On Monday, John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, said American forces would stay in Syria as long as Iran maintained a military presence there. Iran and Russia are the two main allies of the Syrian government, led by President Bashar al-Assad, so it is unlikely Iran will withdraw its military units anytime soon.
And so neither will the United States, Mr. Bolton said.
“We’re not going to leave as long as Iranian troops are outside Iranian borders, and that includes Iranian proxies and militias,” Mr. Bolton told reporters in New York.
After Mr. Bolton made his remarks, Jim Mattis, the defense secretary, told journalists at the Pentagon that American troops in Syria remained focused on the Islamic State.
“Right now, our troops inside Syria are there for one purpose, and that’s under the U.N. authorization about defeating ISIS,” Mattis said. “Our troops are there for that one purpose.”
But Mr. Mattis added that the troops would not leave as soon as the Islamic State was defeated because that could lead to instability.
Mr. Trump has repeatedly threatened to withdraw American troops and is wary of United States involvement in open-ended wars. On Thursday, James F. Jeffrey, the senior American diplomat on Syria, told reporters that Mr. Trump “wants us in Syria” until the departure of the Iranian military and their proxies, among other conditions.
But, Mr. Jeffrey said, confronting Iran does not necessarily mean “boots on the ground.”
Mr. Trump’s three top foreign policy officials — Mr. Bolton, Mr. Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — support a broad United States strategy to contain Iranian military activity across the region.
Meanwhile, the European Union’s top foreign policy official, Federica Mogherini, said this week that the European bloc, China and Russia are working with Iran to set up a special payments system that will allow the countries to avoid economic sanctions that the Trump administration seeks to impose on Iran. Mr. Trump announced in May that the United States would impose the sanctions after withdrawing from the nuclear agreement that President Barack Obama and other world powers reached with Iran in 2015.
The United States is in no rush for North Korea to get rid of its nuclear weapons.
The United States insists North Korea must get rid of its nuclear weapons before economic sanctions are lifted. Officials have been debating whether North Korea should be pressed to keep to a timeline; Mr. Bolton says the faster the better. But at the news conference on Wednesday, Mr. Trump said he was not setting a deadline for denuclearization.
“I don’t want to get into the time game,” Mr. Trump said.
“I got all the time in the world,” he added. “I don’t have to rush it.”
He noted that the process could take “two years, three years or five months.”
After their meeting in Singapore in June, Mr. Trump said that Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, had agreed to denuclearize. Since then, Mr. Kim has insisted that the United States should declare a formal end to the Korean War before he takes major steps. President Moon Jae-in of South Korea has supported that position.
Mr. Trump said this week he would meet again soon with Mr. Kim, and Mr. Pompeo said he would travel to North Korea next month to continue the diplomacy. Last week, Mr. Pompeo said nuclear talks with North Korea would end by January 2021.
Trade disputes with China and Canada are going poorly.
Trade has dominated Mr. Trump’s foreign policy, and there does not appear to be an end in sight on disputes involving two large trading partners — China and Canada.
Mr. Trump started a trade war with China over the summer, and last week he intensified the conflict by announcing tariffs on an additional $200 billion of Chinese goods. In his Tuesday speech, Mr. Trump criticized China for “relentless product dumping, forced technology transfer and the theft of intellectual property,” as well as for violating World Trade Organization rules.
At a Security Council meeting on Wednesday, Mr. Trump said China was trying to interfere in the upcoming United States elections because of his strong stand on trade. “They do not want me or us to win, because I am the first president to ever challenge China on trade,” he said.
Mr. Trump did not present any evidence of the election interference. American intelligence officials have stressed that Russian operations pose a threat to elections here and have said little about China playing a similar role.
Meanwhile, the United States has been embroiled in heated trade negotiations with Canada. The two nations and Mexico have been unable to reach agreement on a new version of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Mr. Trump said on Wednesday that he had rejected a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the General Assembly, and he threatened to impose tariffs on cars that Canada exports to the United States.
“We’re very unhappy with the negotiations and the negotiating style of Canada,” he said.
Mr. Trump favors a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
On Wednesday, before a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, Mr. Trump made his most explicit remarks to date on the shape of the peace proposal on which his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, has been working. He said two states, one for Israelis and one for Palestinians, was his preferred plan.
“That’s what I think works best,” he said.
Later, at his news conference, he reiterated that position. “I think it’s going to be a two-state,” Mr. Trump said. He also said, however, that he was fine with a single state if that was what the Israelis and Palestinians wanted.
For many years, a two-state solution has been the favored position of American negotiators. But questions over the definition of the states have been difficult to resolve, including the status of Jerusalem and the demand of right-of-return by Palestinian refugees. Last year, the United States recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, though Palestinians have long-held hopes for East Jerusalem to be the capital of a Palestinian state.
That move by Mr. Trump prompted the Palestinian Authority to declare it would not take part in negotiations.
In recent months, the Trump administration has cut large annual aid packages that the United States has traditionally given to organizations that work with Palestinian refugees, including the United Nations.
Mr. Kushner and other administration officials believe that will force the Palestinian Authority to negotiate. Palestinian officials and analysts of the region said the hard-line policies have only further angered the Palestinians.
Mr. Trump said on Wednesday that he hoped to present the peace proposal within four months.
‘All options are on the table’ when it comes to United States policy toward Venezuela.
The Venezuelan government has been a consistent punching bag for Mr. Trump. He has criticized the policies of President Nicolás Maduro, a leftist politician who has exercised authoritarian powers, and said the Venezuelan government must change course to deal with its economic crisis, which has resulted in many Venezuelans leaving for neighboring countries.
Despite his harsh words, Mr. Trump said on Wednesday that he was willing to meet with Mr. Maduro.
“We’re going to take care of Venezuela, if he’s here and he wants to meet; it was not on my mind, it was not on my plate, but if I can help people that’s what I’m here for,” Mr. Trump said.
That does not mean the United States is softening toward Mr. Maduro. Mr. Trump also implied to reporters that he would support the use of force to ensure the Venezuelan government changes its policies.
“All options are on the table,” he said. “Every one. The strong ones, and the less than strong ones. Every option — and you know what I mean by strong.”
The New York Times reported in September that the Trump administration held secret meetings with rebellious Venezuelan military officials to discuss overthrowing Mr. Maduro.
On Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Maduro made a surprise visit to the General Assembly and railed against the United States in a 50-minute speech, calling Americans “imperialists.” He and Mr. Trump did not meet.